November 23, 2020

Spectrally specific temporal analyses of spike-train responses to complex sounds: A unifying framework

Significant scientific and translational questions remain in auditory neuroscience surrounding the neural correlates of perception. Relating perceptual and neural data collected from humans can be useful; however, human-based neural data are typically limited to evoked far-field responses, which lack anatomical and physiological specificity. Laboratory-controlled preclinical animal models offer the advantage of comparing single-unit and evoked responses from the same animals. This ability provides opportunities to develop invaluable insight into proper interpretations of evoked responses, which benefits both basic-science studies of neural mechanisms and translational applications, e.g., diagnostic development. However, these comparisons have been limited by a disconnect between the types of spectrotemporal analyses used with single-unit spike trains and evoked responses, which results because these response types are fundamentally different (point-process versus continuous-valued signals) even though the responses themselves are related. Here, we describe a unifying framework to study temporal coding of complex sounds that allows spike-train and evoked-response data to be analyzed and compared using the same advanced signal-processing techniques. The framework uses alternating-polarity peristimulus-time histograms computed from single-unit spike trains to allow advanced spectral analyses of both slow (envelope) and rapid (temporal fine structure) response components. Demonstrated benefits include: (1) generalization beyond classic metrics of temporal coding, e.g., vector strength and correlograms, (2) novel spectrally specific temporal-coding measures that are less corrupted by distortions due to hair-cell transduction, synaptic rectification, and neural stochasticity compared to previous metrics, e.g., the correlogram peak-height, (3) spectrally specific analyses of spike-train modulation coding that can be directly compared to perceptually based models of speech intelligibility, and (4) superior spectral resolution in analyzing the neural representation of nonstationary sounds, such as speech and music. This unifying framework significantly expands the potential of preclinical animal models to advance our understanding of the physiological correlates of perceptual deficits in real-world listening following sensorineural hearing loss.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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